Bill Fennelly’s Iowa State team was headed to the NCAA Tournament… again.
That was the norm in Ames and still is – as long as the tournament is held.
After the team’s loss to Baylor in the 2009 Big 12 Tournament semifinals, they tuned into the selection show to find out the opponent for the 11th trip to the big dance in 13 years.
It would be the first game in the run for the 2008-09 team that sticks out as one of the best in school history.
The Round of 64 vs. East Tennessee State
The Cyclones went into the tournament as a No. 4 seed and made the trek out to Bowling Green, Ky. to start their run at the tournament.
East Tennessee State had just run through the Atlantic Sun Conference, finishing 16-4 and rolling to a championship win over Jacksonville.
The Buccaneers had just one game on their schedule against a top 25-ranked team, where they lost to No. 12 Vanderbilt by 11 points at home.
It was really the only game to note on the entirety of the 30-game slate.
They weren’t going to be taken lightly, anyways. It’s the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa State made sure that was known right from the start.
The Cyclones came out firing. Heather Ezell, Kelsey Bolte, and Amanda Nisleit combined to hit four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes of the game to give Iowa State a 17-5 lead early.
ETSU tried to stop the bleeding in the ensuing minutes, but the Iowa State offense was too much to handle.
The Cyclones went on a 13-2 run at one point to extend their lead to 24 points.
After an onslaught of three-point shooting, Iowa State entered the half with a 47-25 lead over the Buccaneers. The team made 10 three’s in the first half, shooting 50% overall from behind the arc, going into the break.
Iowa State opened up the second half in the same way, leading by as many as 30 points after Nicky Wieben took over in the opening minutes on a 10-2 run.
The two teams battled, but Iowa State managed to hit three-straight, contested longballs – one from Bolte and two more from Lacey – to put the game out of reach for good.
Lacey’s 18 points – all coming from 3-pointers – lead the team to the 85-53 blowout victory in the first round.
The Cyclones landed all five of their starters into double figures and tied an NCAA record for most 3-pointers made in a game with 16.
It was evident the offense was flowing – and going into the tournament it was assumed by analysts that they would face the defending national champions in Tennessee with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Although, in the other game in Iowa State’s pod, the Lady Volunteers were upset in one of the biggest first-round defeats in women’s basketball history.
The Lady Volunteers – then coached by the legendary Pat Summit – had qualified for each of the prior 29 NCAA Tournaments and had never failed to reach the Sweet 16.
Iowa State would go on to face the No. 12 seed in Ball State in yet another trip to the second round – its eighth trip to the second game of the tournament in the past 10 years.
The Cyclones, however, would be trying to qualify for their first Sweet 16 since 2001.